More Anti-Mormon News Bias

Mormon church approves gay rights law – as long as it doesn’t have to follow it.

In the above-linked article, the author bitterly complains that the new law passed in Salt Lake City banning discrimination against homosexuals does not have to be followed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What the author so conveniently ignores is something called the First Amendment that prohibits the federal government (and all “more local” governments) from prohibiting the free exercise of religion. The whole amendment is worded as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The first right guaranteed in the First Amendment is specifically given to religions. That is not a coincidence. Religions are protected by the U.S. Constitution – a person’s sexual preference is not.

The author also incorrectly refers to a film ostensibly about Proposition 8 (called 8: The Mormon Proposition) as “the church’s new film” as if the LDS Church produced and made the film. Anyone who believes Proposition 8 was a “Mormon Proposition” is either misled or disingenuous. What the LDS Church did do is encourage its members to support Prop 8 (although no one was forced to vote for it and no one was disciplined by the church if they voted against it) and be active in the political process. Why is a church – again, which is a Constitutionally-protected entity – not allowed to speak up on issues but any number of other, ostensibly secular, institutions can? Why can women’s clubs, school groups, unions, businesses, and other organizations take stands for or against same-sex marriage but religions should just mind their own business? Religions provide a key role in the moral checks and balances of our nation.

The author continues on with dishonest editorializing:

“The LDS Church will always fall back on its lame  ‘bedrock of marriage’ argument to defeat any attempts at furthering gay rights.

Remember folks, these are the same people responsible for reversing the gains the LGBT community so tirelessly worked for in California and Maine, the same people who just a few months ago faced nationwide criticism and spurred “kiss-in” protests because they detained a gay couple for having the gall to express their affection in public, then let their hateful PR spokesperson disastrously handle the situation in the press.”

Firstly, how is defending marriage “lame”? The burden of proof rests with the editorial’s author to demonstrate exactly how the LDS Church’s marriage argument is lame. Or, is it just easier to call people names or call arguments names without actually addressing the issue? Second, I thought a majority of people in California passed Proposition 8, not the LDS Church. LDS Church members are free to donate their time and money as they see fit. The LDS Church also acted completely appropriately in its role in Prop. 8. Third, now the LDS Church is responsible for the vote in Maine? I think some appropriate citations are in order by the article’s author. Fourth, the “public affection” of the two men arrested on church property included groping, making out, and drunkenness. The men were asked to leave the private property and did not. So, do homosexuals somehow belong to a protected class that does not have to follow private property laws? The only PR “problem” came from LGBT groups who misrepresented or misunderstood what happened and tried to create a controversy where no controversy existed.

Gay-rights advocates do themselves no service by writing articles like this one in The Examiner. The LDS Church stood up for gay rights as far as they are morally and doctrinally able to do. Why are some people so bitter at the LDS Church for standing up for marriage and families, which are the very foundation of our society? In the end, the author expresses disgust that the LDS Church did not change its doctrines to support the imaginary “right of same-sex marriage.” The author did not help his argument by continuing to spread misinformation, lies, and hatred about the LDS Church.

Critics Still Haven’t Read the ‘Torture’ Memos – WSJ.com

Critics Still Haven’t Read the ‘Torture’ Memos – WSJ.com.

Ms. Roensing recently wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal. She starts her article with the following paragraphs:

“Sen. Patrick Leahy wants an independent commission to investigate them. Rep. John Conyers wants the Obama Justice Department to prosecute them. Liberal lawyers want to disbar them, and the media maligns them.

What did the Justice Department attorneys at George W. Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) — John Yoo and Jay Bybee — do to garner such scorn? They analyzed a 1994 criminal statute prohibiting torture when the CIA asked for legal guidance on interrogation techniques for a high-level al Qaeda detainee (Abu Zubaydah).”

Is it right for attorneys to be prosecuted for providing an interpretation of the law? From no critic (or anyone else for that matter) have I read or heard anything that contradicts their interpretation. In other words, it appears that their interpretation of the law was sound. These attorneys acted like judges ideally should – they interpreted according to the law. If people do not like the laws, they should try to change them. Yet, how much have people (namely Congress) tried to change the laws regarding Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs) and torture? As Ms. Roensing points out, “the Senate rejected a bill in 2006 to make waterboarding illegal.

Ms. Roensing also wrote about the laws about torture:

“The Gonzales memo analyzed “torture” under American and international law. It noted that our courts, under a civil statute, have interpreted “severe” physical or mental pain or suffering to require extreme acts: The person had to be shot, beaten or raped, threatened with death or removal of extremities, or denied medical care. One federal court distinguished between torture and acts that were “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.” So have international courts. The European Court of Human Rights in the case of Ireland v. United Kingdom (1978) specifically found that wall standing (to produce muscle fatigue), hooding, and sleep and food deprivation were not torture.

Even waterboarding (which I am opposed to) is not illegal (as referenced above). One columnist for the Washington Post stated his belief (which mirrors many other liberals) about the legality of waterboarding: “waterboarding will almost certainly be deemed illegal if put under judicial scrutiny.” What this means right now is that waterboarding, again, is not illegal. As far as I’m aware, under no U.S. or international law – at present – is waterboarding officially considered torture. Some legal experts and politicians have expressed their opinions that waterboarding is torture but those are all unofficial opinions and have not been codified into law or statutes.

I do have to point out that the Wikipedia article on waterboarding states the following: “Waterboarding is a form of torture.” Well, I guess since it is on Wikipedia, it must be true! Further, the citation for that statement about waterboarding being torture is a Vanity Fair article [Update: This reference has been removed between when I wrote this article and now {May 25, 2009}. At least some of the introduction to the waterboarding article on Wikipedia has been edited a bit]. Now that’s a definitive legal source! The whole Wikipedia article (from my quick skim of it) is quite biased against waterboarding. It starts off with the statement that waterboarding is torture when that in fact has not been legally determined (which is the logical fallacy called begging the question). How is this begging the question? According to United States law (and all or most international law), waterboarding is neither torture nor is it illegal (Pres. Obama calling for the end of its use does not make it illegal – he is part of the executive branch and not the legislative branch). Thus, hinging an argument against waterboarding on the basis of it being torture is begging the question.

Do I think waterboarding should be outlawed? I think there are more arguments against its use than for its use. Does that mean I want it outlawed? I’m not sure. What is the cost of doing so? Is its use justified if it provides real results even once that save lives? Should we not have dropped the atomic bombs on Japan to end WWII? Doing so, according to the best estimates, saved the lives of millions of Japanese and hundreds of thousands or millions of Allied forces. Sometimes when lives are at stake we need to make hard decisions. I know some people say we should never have dropped those bombs but that is the minority opinion and it’s easy to criticize in hindsight without really understanding the circumstances of the time.

What I do not support is any sort of legal reprimand or trial of CIA personnel or of Bush administration Justice Department personnel or anyone else (including Nancy Pelosi) for the use of EITs. If you do not like the procedures, fine. Get laws passed outlawing them and go forward from there. Let’s stop all this bickering and finger-pointing.

Update: I came across a transcript of a speech Sen. Ted Kennedy gave during Michael Mukasey’s nomination approval meetings.

Here’s a key part: “Make no mistake about it: waterboarding is already illegal under United States law. It’s illegal under the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit outrages upon personal dignity, including cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment. It’s illegal under the Torture Act, which prohibits acts specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering. It’s illegal under the Detainee Treatment Act…” (emphasis added).

The problem is that Sen. Kennedy is wrong. Waterboarding is not illegal under U.S. law. Whether or not the Geneva Conventions apply to these “enemy combatants” or “detainees” or whatever they are called (other than terrorists) is debatable. Waterboarding is neither illegal under the Torture Act nor the Detainee Treatment Act because it has not been officially declared as torture by any significant governmental entity. What is interesting is to do a Google search on the legality of waterboarding (not that a Google search finds definitive sources but it is interesting). You get everything from “waterboarding is illegal and has been for 40 years [other sites say 100 – which is it?]” to “waterboarding may not be illegal but it should be” to “waterboarding is torture” to “waterboarding is inhumane” and so forth. So, is it illegal?

My favorite is this chain: “Waterboarding = Drowning = Torture = Illegal = Immoral.” Waterboarding does not equal drowning. Waterboarding simulates drowning but that does not mean it is exactly the same as drowning (which the equal sign signifies). Waterboarding is immoral though. Of course, war is immoral too and war is sometimes justified (this brings in the whole discussion of moral dilemmas). Terrorism is immoral too. So, is it justified to do something that is immoral – namely waterboarding – but not physically or even psychologically harmful in the long term (if anyone can point me to research showing that waterboarding produces lasting physical or psychological harm, I’ll gladly revise my statement)  in order to try to prevent terrorist acts? Do the ends justify the means? Do we need to sometimes make the hard choices in order to save lives?

The Politics of Abortion

Jared’s Preface

The following post started as a response to an article arguing in favor of abortion (the link is not provided here). So what does abortion have to do with the 2008 elections? There are a few core issues that I feel are the most important political issues. Abortion is one of them. I find it very difficult to vote for someone who supports abortions. It would take a lot of issue agreement in other areas between that candidate and myself for me to vote for her or him. I won’t go as far as saying that I will never vote for candidates who support abortion but I am disinclined to favorably cast my vote for them. This is why that for all the admirable qualities that the various Democratic candidates have, I have not been able to get behind any of them and offer true support. I admire and respect their good politics and policies (and conversely don’t admire their bad politics and policies) but the social issues are like a gorilla in a family of chimpanzees; they outweigh the rest. Therefore, the candidates that I can really support are, at their core, socially conservative.

Main Article

By Jared Tanner & Daniel Kay

Advocates of “abortion rights” have labeled their movement pro-choice, as if without abortion there is no choice. It’s an insidious term because it leads to the implication that if you oppose abortion you are against freedom, liberty, and personal choice (e.g., “Don’t tell me what to do with my body!”). The issue about abortion has never been about choice though, it’s about morality and responsibility. The evidence for this is argued as follows: We are pro-choice when it comes to abortion – a woman can choose not to get pregnant in the first place. A choice was made at some point to take some action (even if it was choosing to do nothing) that directly led to pregnancy. This leads into one of the exceptions when abortions should be allowed: in cases of rape (and incest). If a woman is raped and becomes pregnant, she should be able to get an abortion if it’s what she wants to do. This is because the woman’s choice was taken away from her; in a sense, pregnancy was violently forced upon her. Again, abortion is not really about choice – choice is always there whether or not abortions are legal. Most pro-choice supporters are actually pro-abortion – in which the term pro-choice is used as a clever cover. Common tenets of this movement are first the idea that the world is over-populated and abortion is a means of minimizing the growth of the population; second, and most importantly, is the idea that women who are aborting their children are the kinds of people that will raise poor quality citizens and abortion will limit this. To the elitist, abortion is killing two birds with one choice (pun intended).

Many forget that abortion is about morality and life. When does human life begin – at conception, at birth, or somewhere in between? We don’t know. It’s actually irrelevant. A little protoplasmic bundle, a littleblastocyst will turn into a person if a pregnancy is allowed to continue. There is no question about that. If there is something wrong with the embryo, oftentimes the embryo or fetus will spontaneously abort. As inane as this sounds, humans don’t have penguin babies or trees or whatever else. Humans have human babies, so the fertilized egg, theblastocyst, the embryo – whether or not it constitutes human life – will in fact grow into a person. The clearest point at which the formula to a single human life is set in motion and on a self-driven course of development is at conception.

There are two other acceptable exceptions for abortion in our view. If the life of the mother is in serious danger because of a pregnancy, she should be able to get an abortion. Also, if the fetus will not survive past birth (i.e., life is not viable), then the mother should be able to receive an abortion. Other than that, there is no reason for abortion. We should note that these are fairly rare circumstances. In such cases the choice of abortion should not be made lightly or necessarily at all.

Yet some continue to argue for abortion using the “slippery slope” argument (i.e., if some abortions are outlawed then soon all abortions will be outlawed including the one we all agree should be legal). However, using the same faulty logic it can be argued that all abortion needs to be outlawed because once some are allowed, the slippery slope will soon lead to the right to kill neonates. Granted there are advocates for pushing society down both slopes. This does not mean that society as a whole will slip into an uncontrollable tumble down either if it moves in one direction or another. Nonetheless, there are consequences for moving down either direction. Moving in the direction that places the right of the mother over the right of her unborn child will move society to place higher value on the self over another other person, while moving towards putting the rights of one individual on par with another moves society in the direction of equal rights (i.e., unborn children have the same rights as born ones).

Legally, governments have picked various time points at which there are legal consequences for terminating development – usually at or before birth. However, individuals in society maintain a continuum with no clear cut-off where terminating one’s offspring is ubiquitously unjustified. Statistically our society places higher value on life the more developed it is. For example, abortions decrease as gestational age increases. This trend continues after birth as well, with murder of children decreasing with the age of the child. There are several factors that play into this trend but one is certainly the idea that the act is justified by the one doing the terminating. The justifications that aborting parents use are often used by parents who murder their newly-born children (which unfortunately occurs in the world): financial burdens, social inconvenience, and partnership dissolution. These explanations used to justify the killing of a 6 mouth old will disgust most people. Fewer people are disgusted by killing younger infants, such as those less than a minute old (e.g., in a partial birth abortion); the earlier in a pregnancy, the less disgusting the thought becomes. Eliminating these justifications should be the goal of or society regardless the age of the life.

Abortion is morally ambiguous at best. Why not take the safest route and outlaw abortions except in the instances of rape and incest, the life of the mother, and lack of newborn viability? This would remove the moral ambiguity and give no foothold for parents to justify terminating a life for selfish reasons. Granted, with the aforementioned exceptions to illegal abortion, some may argue that the issue still is ambiguous. That may be but at least the moral ground is much firmer than before. If a person does not want children, the solution is to not get pregnant. If an undesired pregnancy occurs due to poor choices, the mother should carry the baby to term; after delivery she then has the option to put the baby up for adoption. If we, as a nation, get to the point where we have more infants available for adoption than parents seeking children, then we have other problems to worry about (I limited this solely to infants because adopting older children is a whole different issue).

Arguments also abound that the government has no right to legislate morality. However, that is exactly what governments are organized to do. The whole criminal system (and much of the civil legislation) is legislation of morality. For example, stealing is illegal because it is morally wrong (e.g., it breaks our society’s value of private property). Other pro-abortion advocates argue that making abortion illegal
infringes on personal liberty and that it is needless governmental interference. Removing government from a person’s personal life does not mean more liberty. The lack of laws does not equal liberty. Laws make us free. Importantly, they protect individual rights from the right of others to do whatever they feel like doing. We’re not advocating having the government involved in everything we do, but the argument that all reductions in the size or scope of government automatically means more freedom is false. Some people believe that true freedom comes from supporting the pro-choice movement – being able to have safe, convenient, and government-subsidized abortions. We say that true freedom, when children are not desired, is being able to make the choice to not get pregnant in the first place. The natural consequence of pregnancy is the development of a living human being. Like all humans, the unborn have the right to fulfill their natural development. It is the responsibility of the mother to protect the right of her offspring. Having an abortion is eschewing personal responsibility in favor of personal convenience and denying the right of another to continue on his or her natural course.